At long last.... I'm back in the lap of luxury (Marcus' house) and able to update my blog. I know you all have been waiting in EXCRUCIATING anxiety for me to post again (especially you, Dad:), so I'm happy I can, albeit quickly, as I'm off to Lake Baringo to camp for the week. PC is giving us pretty much this whole week off without it counting against our vaca--they want us to go somewhere and stay there through elections. So...kar'BU vacation!
First things first: I have named the bat. In an attempt to remain culturally sensitive, I have, after much thought and internal debate, decided on "Popo." In the end, I narrowed it down to two choices: "Wewe" (translation: "you") and "Popo" ("bat"). Wewe is what I scream at it as I'm flailing my arms and running around my house...when it flies around before I'm safely under my bed net. It also can be used to shoo cows, dogs or small children. I decided on Popo, though, because I like the ring of it and I like the fact that it applies only to bats, as it means bat. In Kiswahili. Or Dholuo. I'm not sure which. I heard Baba refer to it as Popo a few times, so... I gathered (because I'm a cunning linguist, you know) that it means bat. In trying to get the true meaning of my bat's name, I asked Baba the other day if Popo is the word for bat in Dholuo or Kiwahili. He replied "yes." I pressed on... "So... it's the word for bat in Kiswahili?" ... "Yes." "Or.. is that how you say bat in Dholuo?" ..."Okay..." "Wait, Baba, I'm confused... Popo. That word... is that a word in Kiswahili or Dholuo?".... to which he replied "Nice time."
In other developments, I have started putting a little mat down every night in the spot where Popo pees and poos, so that I don't have to sweep it out the door every morning. The first night I did it, Popo didn't pee or poop. So the next night, I didn't put it down. And Popo peed and pooped like he hadn't done it for two days. I muttered, "wewe...." and swept it out the front door, laughing, because Popo clearly has a sense of humor. After that night, though, I decided I would just put the bat mat down every night, regardless... and now Popo seems ot understand that it is ok for him to go there. So... all is well on that front.
Since the last time I posted, I have been to Nairobi and returned (we had a week long training there). The training was... okayyyy.... the best part of it, to be honest, was returning to Umer after it. It was just nice to really miss life there. And to go back and feel like I had really been missed. Right when I got off the matatu in Bar Ober, some people I didn't even know ran up to me and shook my hand and said "Ann! Ann! Where have you been! You have been lost!! Welcome back! We have really been missing you!!" It was nice. Note: I know my name isn't Ann, but that's what people call me here. And when I got back to Umer, my mamas were laughing and clapping and dancing... and they hugged me and it was just... a nice moment. There was so much joy there.
I really feel like a different person when I'm in the village. A better person. And I didn't realize that until I spent that time in Nairobi and came back. In Umer, I have so many fewer concerns, but the concerns I have seem... more real, somehow. More important. More worthwhile. In Nairobi things are fast and dirty and busy and all over the place. It's easy to fall right in to that "go go go who what where" mentality. In fact, you kind of have to to not get eaten alive. But when I'm in Umer, I feel like I can breathe, and take time to look at the sky and to look at people-- I mean, to really look at them and smile at them and wave and ask them how they are and really care about their answer. And it's a wonderful feeling. I don't know that I've ever really had that or felt that. Don't get me wrong, I've definitely felt those things before, but never all at the same time or continuously as I do here.
As far as work is concerned, I've got big BIG plans for January. I started meeting with a guy named George who lives and is from Bar Ober. I have no idea how we got connected, but he basically (er...literally) showed up at my house one day... and we started talking. And it turns out that he does work in community development (he studied it in University in Nairobi) and that he has been trying to get people together to help...change things. He heard that I was here doing similar things, so he thought "two is better than one" and decided to seek me out and see if we could join forces. I said of course. George is educated (in agriculture, too...) and dedicated to helping his community and he understands where I'm coming from, from a community development standpoint, which is... a really, REALLY nice thing. He understands that money is a quick and often sloppy solution to many of the most common, deep-rooted issues in our community, but, because his family lives here and in poverty, he has helped me understand why people think and say many of the things they do. And he is punctual. Which I am not used to at all. But it's great.
So... George and I are now a team. And our first project is to gather some baseline data about the state of our community so that we can better know where to start developing. In other words, we're doing a "needs assessment" in the form of guided interviews. We've been working to develop our questions, using some standard community surveys I got from the PC and adapting them. We're going to spend January (and however much longer we need) to visit houses and talk to people. And then, we're going to analyze our little hearts out. And thennn... develop a plan of action, based on what people have told us. The plan for developing a plan of action will in large part depend on what the interviews reveal, but... of course, the idea is to be as participatory and community-based as is possible (because... my Mom has taught me well:).
I am really excited to do this, partly because I love meeting and talking to people, but also because I am interested to see how people percieve their life and their community and what they have to say when they have the opportunity to say.... anything. I've been really excited about helping get the dispensary built, and about getting a protected water source and about helping the primary school... but... maybe we'll find that something else is more pressing or more important to the community. Who knows.
Speaking of the dispensary, I found out how I can make it so that people in the US can make a contribution to my project through the PC (tax deduc. and all that). I have to write a proposal and get it approved, and then... PC will put a link on their website with my name and project information... and anyone in the world can go to the website, read about what I'm doing and donate (or not). That's another thing I'm going to do in Jan/Feb... (unless I find out through my interviews that no one in my community really wants a dispensary)... so I'll keep you all posted on that front. If anyone is interested.
Other than all that.... ahhh, well there's so much more I have to say, but I'm trying to get all my things together so that I can get camping. I'll have to write more next week(ish). And I promise to do so.
Happy Happy Happy Holidays.... keep your fingers crossed for a safe and successful election here, too (Dec. 27th!). Love and miss, as always.